Extending the centuries of collaboration between Norfolk and the Netherlands can help both countries tackle farming's climate challenge, said Dutch ambassador Karel van Oosterom.

The ambassador spoke at an online event organised by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA).

He said Norfolk and its "North Sea neighbours" in the Netherlands shared a long history of trade and similar agricultural landscapes which were both vulnerable to climate change - an "existential issue" for his home country, with more than two thirds of its people living below sea level.

So he called for the countries to keep sharing their respective expertise in carbon capture, sustainable farming and "climate smart agriculture".

"For centuries, East Anglia and the Netherlands, we have this wonderful close friendship and excellent trading ties just across the North Sea," he said.

"When I was told that by the end of the 16th century a third of the population of Norwich was Dutch, I was astounded - so a lot of the DNA in Norwich must be Dutch.

"I have not been to the Broads yet, but I am told you could easily mistake the landscape for the Netherlands, the way it looks and the way agriculture has been organised. The Fens took shape in the 17th century when it began to be drained under the supervision of a Dutch engineer.

"So it is great to see that cooperation is visible in the landscape itself.

"It is good to see that historic cooperation but I have some very good practical examples we can build on nowadays."

The ambassador's first example was the partnership between Dutch engineering company Royal Haskoning DHV and North Norfolk District Council to design the pioneering "sandscaping" scheme to protect Bacton Gas Terminal and its neighbouring villages from the sea.

He also highlighted the Dutch company BOM Group building the state-of the-art tomato greenhouse at Kirby Bedon outside Norwich, part of a "world-first" low-carbon farming project, due to be formally opened later this year.

Eastern Daily Press: Dutch company BOM Group is building two vast greenhouses in Norfolk and Suffolk, capable of producing 12pc of the UK's tomatoesDutch company BOM Group is building two vast greenhouses in Norfolk and Suffolk, capable of producing 12pc of the UK's tomatoes (Image: BOM Group)

"It is a very good example of 'climate smart' agriculture, which is more sustainable than classic forms of agriculture, providing high yields and high profits to the farmers who use it," he said.

Mr van Oosterom also praised the trade co-operation between New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the province of Drenthe in the Netherlands, to encourage economic and business links.

And he hailed the "wonderful" innovation at the Norwich Research Park, where scientists at the Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre and the UEA have collaborated with Wageningen University in the Netherlands on breakthroughs such as isolating resistance genes to potato blight.

"These are amazing examples where bilateral cooperation between brilliant people can have an effect on all of us," he said.

"If I look at what is happening in Norfolk when it comes to biotech, genomics, food science, agri-tech and crop sciences, there is a lot of practical cooperation going on and we can do so much more.

"We are here to help and we really hope we can stimulate a lot of bilateral cooperation in these important fields, both for yourself, and also the safety of the planet to counter climate change."